Saturday, June 16, 2018

The freedom of travelling

WRITING BY MONIKA CSAPO

I like to travel alone because it feels like a discovery. Noone knows me where I am going to and I go to places I haven't been yet therefore it is all unknown territory to me as well. Upon arrival all that new world is just pictures from the internet and some Tripadvisor reviews.


When I arrive nothing is exactly how I imagined. Some places are less majestic, others much bigger than I thought they would be but eitherways everything is somehow better in real life-even the dissapointments what turn to good stories later.

It is obvious in a way: you can not plan the random element beforehand what adds so much to every trip. Sitting in the sun on a bench after arriving in Jerusalem talking to some random local woman about the pleasant January sun while looking at passerby. Catching the sunset over Sinai while driving to the hotel from the airport. Drinking a freshly pressed pommegranade juice at Mechane Yehuda Market at a juice stand and tasting sahlab instead of the planned smoothie for lunch.

There is so much photographs can not tell and there are so many stories left untold after a good trip. Some of them might stay untold forever just because listening- as story telling- requires time. 

Some trips are very tight. Because of budgeting reasons there is x amount of days for a whole region and because I like to see as much as I can, I visit almost every day a new place. My brain can not really absorb what I see after some days but that is what the camera is good for- it can really conserve feelings. Last autumn when I visited São Miguel, I planned a whole day for Mosteiros to photograph the black sand beach with the rocks in front of it. I read technical articles about photographing waves, took my tripod with me..And then it started to rain shortly after arrival and it poured for almost two hours. Everything was different on that day than I planned and if it would have been some years ago I would have freaked out totally about my plans being destroyed. But then I escaped to the closest cafe - which had no lights on except of some neon picture frames and looked like a dark, red room from Pulp Fiction- where I met the three girls I got to know on the bus on the way there. We decided to wait a bit and the rain stopped. We went for a walk to the other side of the village, saw the ocean, the natural pools and the surrounding mountains in the warm lights of the golden hour and did even a short sightseeing at the local church opposite the bus stop. 

It was also in Jerusalem that I heard the muezzines for the first time in my life calling people for prayer. It was beautiful and different. It felt so that everything stopped for a sec- not because of fear- there was something unearthly and pure in those moments. At least to my ears which love everything connected to sound and music and have been trained for five years at the compulsory flute lessons twice a week during primary school.

Travel is teaching and learning. Nothing is really so as it seems from far away. I remember when I went for the first time to the supermarket in Ponta Delgada (capital of the Azores) in my Nordic-inspired leggings-black Nike- sports jacket food shopping outfit to the shop in the center. And had to note that just because we are in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and I happend to be a tourist people live a normal life here and everyone is dressed properly on the streets- besides me. There was Zara and Esprit and Mango, burger restaurants and the best of street art all around the city. It was the perfect mixture of historical buildings, Portugese architecture and modernity. I would have never imagined before that there is such a cool city in the middle of the ocean- not to speak about it that after the trip I realized that the distance is not that big from continental Europe at all. It is just the perception of something being close or far away what can be so misleading sometimes. Next time I might hop on a plane in Porto instead of London and I will better look for those good flights because I have been missing that place a lot lately.

It also belongs to the freedom of travelling that when you really want to see a place you make compromises. I took the bus or train sometimes instead of flying or flew to an other city and took a bus to my destination. Twice I spent the evening at the airport and when I decided that I want to get to know Copenhagen better after seeing the hotel prices I opted for staying at a hostel for two weeks. Through all of these choices I got to know new people from all around the world-some of them I am still in contact with. I would never choose one more coat or the newest phone over any exciting trip. It is just the different preferences people have. To me the chance of seeing something new, to discover what I have not known yet - or to go back and get to know even better what I liked so much at first sight- is what makes me feel alive. 

I am not sure if travelling is freedom itself or in order to be free you need to travel and get out of your usual environment from time to time. Eitherways I know that when I am on the road, moving constantly I realize how much can fit to a day. May be it is not be possible to live so intensely every day but I am thankful fore the intensity of life I can experience while being on the road.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A cafe at the end of the world

WRITING AND PHOTOS BY MONIKA CSAPO

Well not really, just at the junction of two islands, Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari. The biggest mistake what most people do when visiting the North for the first time is not knowing that Finland and other Nordic countries are much more of a lifestyle than a sum of places you can visit. You need time and patience and when you move with open eyes the places around you will open up to you.

Helsinki is a very different face of Finland than the typical Finnish countryside but also here when you know where to go you can experience "real Finnish-ness" and enjoy a getaway in one of the forests, by the sea or on one of the surrounding islands. In the countryside if you are lucky you can go in summer to the cottage at weekends and sit by the lake doing nothing but reading newspapers. Or fish a bit, go to the sauna and barbeque with the family. Wash the dishes after lunch, then take coffee with some cookies and continue doing nothing again. It might not sound too interesting but nothing calms you down more than a good mökki-holiday.

There is something beautiful in it that even in the capital of high-tech Finland you can take a boat from the centre what brings you to the islands where after a ten-fifteen minute walk you sit at a bay where are hardly any people around you. Smaller groups pass by sometimes but there is not a disturbing crowd. Even like this, in the middle of nowhere there are two cafes and a bar serving visitors discretely but efficiently in summer- two of them belonging to Epic Food Co displaying a really cool minimalistic Scandinvian signature style. In the small cafe shop you can buy rainponchos with photos of typical old brick builings to be found on the islands or photo books about the archipelago which can be nice local presents or memories from the trip. There is ice cream, beer, coffee, some food- so it is also ideal for meeting with friends or having a date.

If you need some peace you can sit in one of the yellow sunchairs by the shore for a while, take in the sun and enjoy the view. All this for a bit over ten euros, away from everything.


- i wrote this post after rewatching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode of the Azores. I still can not believe that he is gone and exactly in that episode there was a sentence what shook me so deep in regard of what happened. I am so thankful that inspiring people like him do exist, he was a person who gave so much to the travel community and the world. I hope if there is some real meaning and promise behind the expression "rest in peace" he will be happy and at peace in the afterlife, or in whatever what is out there after life, after giving so much to others.-